We're always being told to save the planet, but for some people it all just seems so confusing! This article will give you some easy ways to make a big difference to the planet without having to make a massive effort.
Ditch the plastic bags
When you go shopping, whether for groceries or clothes, take your own bags. This could mean reusing old plastic bags or buying some fabric shopping bags. There are some really fashionable bags and they can be bought very cheaply. Plastic bags sit in landfill for years and can be a hazard for wildlife so this is a really easy way to make a difference. Just get into the habit of keeping a few old plastic bags in a pocket of your handbag or in the boot or the car.
Buy a cheap plastic bin and put it next to your regular bin, labelling one as "recyclable" and one as "non-recyclable." We actually have 3 bins - one for recyclable plastics and paper, one for glass and one for non-recyclables. It might sound like our kitchen's full of bins but the recyclable bins are in our utility room and it actually works really well. You just get used to putting certain things in certain bins. We also have a box where we put our cartons. When the box is full, we take a trip to the local recycling centre and then start to fill it up again. If you don't know where your local facilities are, look at the website for your local council and you can find out really easily.
Don't throw it away!
Reducing the amount of waste we produce might seem like an impossible task but it doesn't have to be! Look for free "swapping" sites like freegle and freecycle, where you can offer up anything you don't want any more for free to someone living near you. You might be ready to throw away that shredded paper but someone might be able to use it for animal bedding or a craft project. If you think your old stuff could actually make you some money, try a car boot sale or online auction. another option is to donate to charity, for example if you have lots of old kid's toys, a local children's centre or nursery could use them.
Food waste is another big problem. There are lots of ways to reduce this, such as developing a collection of recipes which can use up leftovers and planning your meals well in advance so you only buy what you need and will use. Don't be tempted by special offers to buy food you won't actually eat as you're wasting your money, as well as generating waste.
I know this is an old story now but it's true - showering saves water! Make a bath a treat for the weekend which you really enjoy and fit quick showers into your daily routine. If you have children who need baths, remember it doesn't have to be full to the top! They can cope with having a bit less water. Other little things to remember are not to leave the tap running when you are brushing your teeth or cooking and when you are washing vegetables, have it running slowly. You'll save money and you won't end up drenching the work surface!
- Get into the habit of turning off the light and electrical appliances when you leave the room
- If you have more than one TV in the house, make a rule that, if you are watching the same show, you have to use the same TV!
- Don't leave appliances charging for longer than necessary
- Don't leave appliances on standby - if you want to save your session, use the hibernate setting on your computer, as long as this turns the system off
- Only have lights on if necessary. Open the curtains!
- If you're feeling chilly, put on a jumper. If you're too hot, open the window. Only use heating or air con when you really need it
- Defrost your food instead of cooking from frozen. It will need less time in the oven so you will use less energy
- Turn the oven off for the last few minutes of cooking. It will still be warm enough to finish the food off
- Defrost your freezer regularly. They use more energy when frosted up as the system is working harder to keep the freezer cool
Lower your carbon footprint
- Try to walk or cycle short journeys instead of driving
- When buying a new car, check the "eco-friendly" rating and fuel consumption
- Lower your fuel consumption by braking and accelerating gradually and making sure your car doesn't carry unnecessary loads. This means taking off that roof box and bike rack when you aren't using them
- Use public transport where possible or set up a car sharing scheme with your colleagues or other parents on the school run. If there are fewer cars on the road, emissions will be lower and it also means less traffic!
- Think about how many plane journeys you take. Is there a destination nearby where you could spend that weekend break instead of taking a plane trip? See if your airline offers "carbon offsetting." There will be a small charge but it might help ease your conscience!
I hope these tips have shown you the wide range of changes you can make to contribute to saving out planet!